Social Security Disability
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is an insurance program offered by the Social Security Administration for people who have worked and paid into Social Security Retirement for a certain number of years and who are disabled. Even if you are disabled, if you have not worked long enough under the Social Security Regulations or it has been too long since you worked, then you will not be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance.
Also, if you are already of Social Security Retirement age, you are not eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance. Rather, you can simply start collecting Social Security Retirement.
The Social Security Act defines “disability” as the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity because of a medically determinable severe physical impairment(s), severe mental impairment(s), or combination of severe impairments which can be expected to end in death, have lasted for at least 12 months, or will last for at least 12 months.
If you are approved for Social Security Disability Insurance, you become eligible to receive a monthly financial benefit and Medicare.
The application process is as follows:
You can file an application for SSDI at your local Social Security office or online (www.ssa.gov).
If you choose to file an application at your local Social Security office, it is usually a good idea to call in advance to set up an appointment for the application.
Once the application is submitted, the Social Security Administration will review your medical records, various questionnaires that you will have to fill out, and any other documentation you think is important for their review. Also, the Social Security Administration may ask you to be evaluated by one or more of their doctors regarding your disability.
Following this evaluation process, the Social Security Administration will make its determination and mail you a copy of its decision. If you are denied and you wish to further pursue the application, then it is necessary to file a request for reconsideration with the Social Security Administration within 60 days of the date of your denial. Once this appeal is filed, the Social Security Administration will assign your file to a different caseworker for review.
Often the Social Security Administration will require you to again complete the questionnaires you filled out and provided following the initial application, and they may ask you to be evaluated by one or more of their doctors again. Continuation of your medical care is also reviewed. Again, once the Social Security Administration has completed its review of your file, it will make its determination and mail you a copy of its decision. If you are again denied, the next step in the appeals process is to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. This must also be done within 60 days of the date of your denial. The waiting period for a hearing date is quite long, so it is normal to not hear anything from the Social Security Administration following the confirmation of your hearing request for quite some time. Nevertheless, it is important to keep the Social Security Administration updated with respect to your ongoing medical treatment in preparation for when you are assigned a hearing date.
Once a hearing date has been assigned, it is important that you appear at your hearing. There are two hearing offices in the State of Connecticut. One is in Hartford, and the other is in New Haven. Sometimes hearings are held via teleconference, but you will still be required to go to either the Hartford or New Haven hearing office. Which hearing office you must go to is determined by your address.
At the hearing, the Administration Law Judge will ask you questions about your medical condition(s), your work history, your skill set, your daily activities, and anything else that may be pertinent to your claim. There is usually a vocational expert present at the hearing too. Ultimately, it is the Administrative Law Judge’s job to determine whether you qualify for disability benefits under the Social Security Act. Often it takes the Administrative Law Judges some time following the hearing to make their determinations and issue their decision. Thus, it is not unusual for a few more months to go by before you receive the decision.
If the Administrative Law Judge issues an unfavorable decision, you can appeal the denial one more time within the Social Security Administration. At this point, you must file a request for review with the Appeals Council within 60 days of the Administrative Law Judge’s decision. In general, the Appeals Council will review your written appeal and the evidence that the Administrative Law Judge had at the time of the hearing. Your medical condition since the date of the hearing and any record of medical treatment since the date of the hearing is not relevant for the Appeals Council’s review. Similar to the waiting period for your hearing date, it is not unusual for the Appeals Council to take a long time to review your appeal and issue its decision.
The Appeals Council is the last available appeals step within the Social Security Administration. Thus, if the Appeals Council denies your request for review, you have the option to file suit in Federal District Court against the Social Security Administration. Sometimes, however, it makes more sense to file a new application for SSDI instead. Whether you can do this will depend on various factors. If you choose to file suit in Federal District Court, the lawsuit must be filed within 60 days of the date of the Appeals Council’s denial.
If you are thinking about applying for SSDI, it is important to remember that most applications are denied upon initial review. Thus, it becomes necessary to file an appeal and follow the appeals process just described. Unfortunately, because it is often necessary to follow the appeals process, approval for benefits can take a long time to obtain.